On the Yahrzeit of Heschel and birthday of King
Listen, O earth, to these wounds,
We have been pounded on the peaks,
elevated and alone.
Who ascends these holy mountains,
We have bled all over our back packs,
descended at the penultimate moment.
Snatched away from the precipice,
we descended into the valley
where we sat quietly with our eyes closed,
waiting for a bus, nothing loftier,
and we would have remained there
if not sitting next to us was the prophet Amos,
watching for the light to change.
His skepticism, as always,
was an inspiration —
justice rolling down like water,
and righteousness like a mighty stream.
Listen to the wounds, O earth,
pay attention to the bleeding sky,
brother elements, sister flesh,
pay a little attention will you —
at least give ear to these words.
There is a famous picture of Abraham Joshua Heschel,
rabbi, human being, interpreter of inner and prophetic Judaism,
walking with Martin Luther King, jr.,
preacher, prophet, activist, redeemer,
walking together in the front row of the marchers,
King and Heschel walking arm in arm,
the famous commentary by Heschel —
I felt as if I was praying with my feet.
Look at the picture of Heschel and King again,
this emblem of deep connection
bound at the arms they are, bound by the legs they are
the pictorial story of Black Jewish history together,
a chronicle of what was
and hope for a return to coalition,
good intention, hope.
Our freedom stories have been told
in the same story,
King and Heschel claimed the Exodus as the freedom story,
the prophets as the freedom agents,
we are characters in each other’s freedom story.
“The day we marched together out of Selma
was a day of sanctification. That day
I hope will never be past to me—
that day will continue to be to this day”
— Heschel in a letter to King.
In that letter Heschel wrote he felt
“as though my legs were praying.”
Both men read their story into
the freedom narrative of Exodus
and the Prophets of Israel —
two stories that transformed and inspired their lives.
For Heschel and King,
the Exile story was not theoretical.
“We will not be satisfied,” preached King,
quoting the prophet Amos 5:24, “until justice rolls down like waters
and righteousness like a mighty stream.”
This verse is engraved into the King Memorial